When you think dancer, you don’t always think networking. The stereotype for those who need to network is a “suit”; anyone in business, marketing, public relations. But that’s exactly the reason why networking is so important to the modern day dancer, whether you are just starting out as a trainee or if you are a seasoned professional. You are your own business. You market yourself, and your presence on social media and the connections you make during your training and career help launch and develop your personal brand and therefore, the next stage in your career. You’re your own publicist. So when it comes to networking, establishing a web of contacts who have worked with you–as a teacher, a fellow dancer, an artistic director–or who may someday work with or for you, can be a huge asset. And it’s one that can easily start with the people you spend the most time with.
Develop your working and personal relationships on the regular, with your fellow dancers, with the directors, with the teachers you rehearse with or receive coaching from. Even outside the studio, how you are perceived can make a world of difference in the impression you leave. How you interact with photographers, makeup artists, media, patrons of the arts, and so on all matters. We’ve talked about how much attitude and general etiquette play such a role in the dance world before, but it’s always worth repeating. How you behave and come across as a professional and as an individual can make a world of difference when it comes down to who gets the job and who does not. Let’s put it this way: You can have all the facility in the world and as many tricks up your sleeve as you want, but if you can’t present your best professional self, eventually, karma’s going to catch up with you. Most want to work with dancers they can work with or mold, not fight against.
But laying the groundwork of being an asset to work with is not all that networking is about. It involves curating your social media presence in a way that portrays who you are and your skills. It’s about putting in the effort to not only create but also maintain relationships with those you meet along the way. Now, this isn’t a call to action for schmoozing. Be authentic in your interactions, but if you are interested in learning more about a resident choreographer’s past experience or find that you have something in common with someone you’re working with, explore that. Don’t shy away from it. You never know when just being present in the conversation, or that rehearsal, or in a quick exchange over direct messages could get your foot in the door.
Networking can be, simultaneously, easy and a lot of work. You do have to put in the effort to acknowledge those around you. Stay connected to alumni of your school of training, your college, previous companies you’ve danced for. Express gratitude for those you’ve learned from. In a post last May, I discussed some of the keys to good networking after assisting my husband with one of his shoots. That post focused on one of the actors at that shoot who stood out to me because of his ability to stay present and appreciative of the process. One of the takeaways from that experience was expressing gratitude, or an appreciation for anyone involved in a given project. Seek advice, stay curious and be current in what’s happening in the dance world beyond your own bubble. If you’ve had the opportunity to work with a guest choreographer and had productive experience, connect with them on social media. Same goes with photographers, designers, writers. Stay curious. Express a desire to learn and to connect.
There is also a time to be confident, and at appropriate times, fearless, giving in wholly to your ambition. As dancers, we are naturally disciplined and ambitious. So, give yourself the credit to seek out opportunities. They may not be handed to you, but by being your own advocate and showing that you have a hunger to grow and mature as an artist, you’ll ultimately see a progression in what you bring to the table and who you are as a dancer. And, you’ll feel more fulfilled in the work you do.
One of the best places to start, or to restart, your marketing strategy is in your approach to networking, and one of the best ways to tackle networking is by establishing your short and long term goals and identify what, and who, you think can help you accomplish them. This time of year is the perfect opportunity to do this, so as you move forward into summertime, take that moment to reflect and use the upcoming summer months to get yourself set up for success.